Shanghai Pathways Blog

Understand ​China​ ​From the Local ​Perspect​ive


April 2012

Fall and Rise of China

  • Fall and Rise of China (Audio) Taught by Richard Baum
  • From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History (Audio) Taught by Kenneth J. Hammond

Just finished 2 audio books recently, both contain tons of historical information. While from Yao to Mao made me fall into sleep from time to time, I plan to go through the Fall and Rise of China again, simply because it is too fascinating.

If you are more interested in modern Chinese history, then Richard Baum’s course will give you a detailed understanding of all the core events in China’s century of stunning change, including these major happenings:

* Collapse of the Qing dynasty: You study the interlacing social, political, and economic factors that led to the fall of China’s 2,000-year empire and the implacable call for new political paradigms.
* The Republican era and civil wars: In the wake of the defunct empire, you witness the drama of the short-lived Chinese Republic, followed by political chaos and the long strategic battle between Republican forces and the seemingly unstoppable Communist Party.
* The “Great Leap Forward”: In a landmark episode of the Mao era, the regime’s grand-scale projects to communize agriculture and galvanize industry saw bureaucratic mismanagement leading to tragedy for tens of millions of Chinese.
* The Cultural Revolution: During this bitter era of the 1960s, festering tensions between the Maoist regime and its critics erupted in a brutal campaign of terror and repression against perceived enemies of Socialism.
* China’s post-Mao economic “miracle”: In the later lectures you track the specific reforms and ideological shifts that opened China to global economic engagement and forged its new role as a free-market dynamo.

Lost by director Zhou Xiaowen

Shenzhen, China, the present day. Nineteen-year-old Wang Baihe (Wang Zitong) is a migrant worker from a village in Shaanxi province. She has a baby son from a one-night stand with a man from Hong Kong and a small income from making Chinese decorative knots at home. Her dream is to open a noodle restaurant and “make lots of money and become a city person” but she finds it difficult to find regular employment because of her baby boy. Her story emerges through interviews with journalist Liu Nan (Lü Liping), who is writing a book about her. When Baihe discovers her son has congenital heart disease, she tries desperate ways to raise the RMB80,000 (US$12,000) for the operation, helped by her friend and fellow migrant worker Hu Jinling (Zhao Yaqi). 

Excavate the issue of humanity

At the moment,  four types of films prosper more so than others within the current context of the Chinese film market: patriotic “red” movies, crime thrillers, action movies and romance stories. There are few films that truly concern common people and disadvantaged groups such as women and children. Sometimes I wonder if there will be a situation where these movies disappear altogether.

Eating bitterness

China is now experiencing the fastest economic growth in recorded history. Little known however is the fact that millions of young women from poverty-stricken areas have migrated to the more developed coastal regions trying to make it in the cities. Many of them have to endure all kinds of miseries and humiliations in order to live better lives. Some of them become rich men’s mistresses while others work 16 hours a day at the cost of their health. There are also a great number of them who become single mothers. The population of such single mothers has reached three hundred thousand and the number is still growing.

Though intimate in its portrayal of a village girl’s yearnings for success in the big city despite her increasingly dire social circumstances, Lost (Baihe) offers a thought-provoking case study that suggests that this is not just the story of one fictional woman, but of a vast (and largely unspoken) cross-section of modern Chinese society.

Here is a better idea: Chinese official government estimates put migrant workers in China at 221 million (16.5 % of the total population) and expected to grow another 100 million over the next 10 years.

There, but for the grace of God

Watching this movie, I can’t help but think that this could happen to me or just any person. We are who we are because of where we are, when we are born and who we know. In the end of the movie, we have 3 totally different endings and all seems true and highly possible.

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